Chinese students with valid US visas harassed by customs
Published: Aug 24, 2023 03:03 AM
File photo shows an aerial view of Manhattan in New York City, the United States. Photo: Xinhua

File photo shows an aerial view of Manhattan in New York City, the United States. Photo: Xinhua, a professional website providing comprehensive information services to overseas Chinese around the world, has recently received feedback from some Chinese students studying in the US, who said they had problems when entering the country and during their studies, which has affected their academic pursuits. 

According to the website, three Chinese students were recently detained and interrogated by personnel from the US Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security for an extended period of time. The US officials confiscated electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones without any basis or valid permission and demanded access to the devices by requesting passwords. 

They repeatedly asked the students about their membership of the Communist Party of China and military background. Eventually, the US officials refused entry to the three Chinese students and coerced them into signing documents to abandon their visas.

According to feedback from the students involved, the methods used by the US authorities were harsh and illegal, and the questions asked were manipulative and threatening. 

Another Chinese student who went to the US to pursue a PhD in Electrical Engineering stated that he was interrogated by US law enforcement officers for a duration of 12 hours. The US authorities started by questioning his parents’ status as farmers and continuously harassed him about the source of his study funds. 

They searched his phone and seized photos related to his electrical engineering studies and his military interests, suspecting him of being a member of military personnel sent to the US to steal intelligence. The US authorities also refused the student’s request for a translator and did not inform him of his right to contact the Chinese Embassy in the US and other external parties. 

One student was suspected of having connections with the Wagner Group and was deported due to content related to the Ukraine crisis in a social media group chat. Another student was suspected of concealing work experience in the immigration process because he used pinyin to write the name of his previous employer instead of the official English name in his visa application materials. As a result, he was deported on the grounds of discrepancy in his visa application materials.

Another Chinese student was recently charged by the FBI under the so-called Presidential Proclamation 10043, accusing him of “intentionally concealing military education experience” and committing “visa fraud,” which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. But the student only attended a few classes that the US authorities deemed “sensitive,” and he was unjustly accused. Moreover, the FBI stole the student’s personal information from his study application materials and used it as “evidence,” severely violating his privacy.

Experts in the field of study abroad services pointed out that while the US claims to be open, inclusive, and supportive of academic freedom, it has politicized and weaponized academic research, and abused the concept of “national security” to suppress and persecute Chinese students in the US. 

During US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China in June, China and the US reached a consensus on expanding cultural and educational exchanges. However, while the US claims to welcome more Chinese students to study in the US, it continues to suppress them. The US’ “tolerance” and “freedom” are false, and its true intention is to restrain China by suppressing Chinese students, experts warned.

The actions of the US will undoubtedly have a chilling effect both within and outside the US, they said, adding that Chinese students planning to study in the US should carefully assess the risks and think twice before making a decision.